Review: The Burial of Kojo

Title: The Burial of Kojo
Rating: NR
Director: Blitz Bazawule
Starring: Cythnia Dankwa, Joseph Abebrese, Kobina Amissah-Sam
Runtime: 1 hr 20 min

What It Is: Draped in mysticism and magical realism, this documentary follows a young African girl as she recounts the interactions between her father and uncle leading up to her father’s disappearance.

What We Think: For a story that conveys how far jealousy and anger can push someone, there aren’t a lot of tense or high stake moments in the film. The tense and high stake moments that do occur are mostly seen within Esi’s dreamworld. It can be hard to follow what the dreams are meant to convey, but the storytelling is very poetic.

What did stand out about this film, is the cinematography and shot choices. That in itself was like a poem. The way they lit deep, dark black skin making it shine and stand out in both soft and harsh lighting. The way they play with different hues, blue and purples, yellows, and stark white attire. The colors are spectacular. The fabrics. Landscapes. Each shot is truly picturesque. I also can’t recall a non-action film that plays with shot choice so beautifully. Blitz Bazawule directed unorthodox pans, tilts, push-ins, twists that take the viewer from upside down to right side up in one swift motion that just worked. Movement oriented shots were constantly engaging and seemingly effortless.

Another filmmaking choice that stands out is the use of both English and African (unable to verify which regional or tribal language used). Esi’s recollection and dreams are performed in English while the rest of the film is performed in an African language accompanied by subtitles. Doing so stays true to the culture and the life of Esi from a young girl to adulthood.

The film overall embodies themes of life and death, womanhood, spirituality, and politics but it screens novel-like with a tone of melancholic introspection and that can be hard to navigate as a viewer.

Our Grade: C+, I wouldn’t watch it for the story; I would watch it for the imagery. It’s not a bad story, it’s just different and lacks a bit of cinematic flavor. I do think this film shows a different side to African filmmaking that many of us aren’t used to. Unfortunately, because of cultural differences, Americans aren’t very receptive or respectful towards African films. A majority of the films that are accessible do come across over-the-top and soap-opera-like. They are often extremely low budget as well. But I think it’s pertinent to remember most of us watch films through an American gaze and that shouldn’t be the leading factor as to whether it’s good or not.